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Google Antics

Posted in BPP Blog

As a company that does a lot of work building sites that are designed to ‘feed’ search engines everything they want so that we can get good ranking…Google makes us crazy!

Why? Aren’t they just trying to build a better web for all of us?

Perhaps they started that way, but like any big company ‘power corrupts’ and ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Let’s take the developments in the last couple years as a study in evil.

I was working with a client that derived  much of his business from online searches. The client bought used phone equipment, refurbished it, then re-sold it. A nice little business. Google was a lot of help in getting that business going. 

Every week we’d post a big fat XML document that described all the items we had for sale to Google’s ‘Shopping’ database. We used Magento to do that…it has a built-in feature…sweet simplicity, and a worked like a charm. Until September 17th 2012….

My boss called me in…he said sales had ceased almost entirely. I looked at Google Analytics. He was right, traffic to the site literally died overnight September 17th. I had no idea why, so I Googled “September 17th WTF?”

I didn’t know what to expect, but as it tuned out my hunch was fulfilled. Tons of messages and blogs posts showed up with that date and a lot of “WTF” phrases.

So what happened? It turns out that  it was that day that Google had virtually shut-off the pipe to sales oriented websites all over the world. They had essentially dissolved  Google Shopping as it had existed, in favor of  their NEW system where you paid for listings. With sales of $8000 a week dwindled to $100 we had little choice. We must pay…and pay and pay. The only way to reclaim the traffic that had dried up was to pay around $300-$500 a day in Google Adwords fees. 

But that wasn’t all. Google almost simultaneously released a new algorithm that shuffled the index ‘deck’ we had all been playing from. The new ‘Panda‘ release   operates on the assumption that if you want to buy something, you would prefer to buy from a big-box store. So, nationwide companies would now appear ahead of smaller companies regardless of the site’s content, selection, popularity or pricing.

When I spoke to Google about this, the sales rep told me that “yes, some of the fringe business have seen a drop-off in traffic with our update.” 

It used to be that the web was the great equalizer. A well-written site with quality content could compete with the titans of industry. The little guy had a chance to compete with the big-boys, and the little guy could grow and flourish.

Well Google doesn’t see it that way. Google wants you to buy from Walmart, Best Buy and Costco. “Staples is where you buy your staples,, and don’t you forget it.

I’ve got nothing against successful companies, I’d like to think we have one here. But when  the dominant search engine decides (independent of the content on your site) that you’re not as relevant as another company just because they’re bigger, they do everyone a disservice. On an even playing field, I can compete with ANYONE. I’m confident that my work will stand up to most any criteria of value, quality or user friendliness. Google doesn’t think you want to compare. They decide what you see and what companies you’ll get to choose from. It’s Google-town now and they’re making a boatload of money off of anyone who relied on the traffic they generate.

I liked Google better when they were a search engine and not content censors.